According to a recent Retail Dive survey, 55% of consumers still prefer to shop in stores because they want to see or test products before they buy.
But if consumers could see or try products virtually from home, would they still have to go to the store before making a purchase?
This question has been asked by companies like Amazon, Warby Parker, and IKEA who have accepted AR product reviews. With these previews, ecommerce visitors can see an item of clothing on a photo of their body, preview the furniture in their bedroom, and even size it themselves to ensure they are buying the best fit product.
But is this virtual experience really as effective as a traditional store or locker room in getting people to buy?
Skeptics could say no. Because AR is costly to implement and product considerations only require a physical location, many marketers feel that this technology isn't worth the fuss.
However, as the world becomes more and more digital, every new generation is making even more online purchases. They also use technologies like AR / VR for entertainment or retail purposes.
Not to mention, holidays like Black Friday lead to an increase in pedestrian traffic. However, it is more difficult for retail businesses to get people into stores for the rest of the year.
While AR may not have been accessible to retail businesses in the past, could it be a revenue generating opportunity in the near future?
To determine if augmented reality is actually a useful marketing technology, I asked 300 consumers about their experiences with AR product previews using Lucid survey software.
The survey asked consumers, "Have you ever bought a product (like furniture or clothing) after seeing an augmented reality preview of what it would look like in real life?"
Since the technology is still pretty new, you can expect consumers to say that they have never used an AR product preview. However, you may also be wondering if those who used an AR Product Preview actually converted.
If you think the general population has not used this new retail technology, you may be surprised by the following result.
Data source: Lucid
According to the survey, 52% of consumers bought at least one item after seeing an AR preview of what it would look like in real life. Over 30% of this group bought multiple products after previewing with AR.
What does this mean for small or medium-sized retailers?
Understandably, you may not yet be able to afford AR technology to make your products stand out. However, the fact that more and more brands are using this feature to influence buying decisions means that technology and personalized digital marketing tactics like AR previews are likely to grow in importance.
Just because you can't afford AR now doesn't mean you won't be able to use it in the future. As augmented reality becomes more important and valuable to businesses, AR e-commerce tools may become more accessible or cheaper. This is a topic that we saw under the influence of artificial intelligence.
While the technology was initially expensive and inaccessible to small and medium-sized businesses, there are now a number of affordable out-of-the-box tools that marketers and businesses can take advantage of.
Even if you can't take advantage of the latest marketing technology today, it's still important to keep up with other retailers' use – especially if they sell products in a similar category to yours.
Below, I'll walk you through some AR strategies that retailers are effectively benefiting from now or that could be an important product marketing tactic in the future:
3 AR Product Marketing Strategies for 2020
Mobile preview of ecommerce websites
With this strategy, a visitor to a mobile ecommerce website can find a product they are interested in, open a camera when they tap an AR preview button, and then see how the product – e.g. B. Furniture – will look like the room it's in Some ecommerce platforms also allow potential customers to see what an accessory like glasses looks like on their face. If a customer likes what they see in an AR preview, they can stop the preview and make a purchase without setting foot in a store.
With the rise of mobile ecommerce, this strategy allows visitors to discover a product through mobile search or an app, visit an ecommerce website, get an idea of what it looks like in real life, and then easily buy it anywhere. It also removes important points of friction that could stop a purchase, e.g. B. going to the store or not finding the correct size or color product in a physical retail location.
Right now we're already seeing companies like IKEA, Home Depot, and Amazon offering AR product previews on mobile websites and apps. However, this strategy may not be entirely inaccessible to smaller businesses.
For example, a small bike retailer called PureCycles wanted to improve their website's mobile experience and conversions. With a large catalog of bicycle product shots from various angles, they used Shopify to create AR previews.
According to PureCycles, the use of virtual previews has improved the customer experience in mobile-optimized browsers and enabled customers to answer key questions about their products, such as: B. "Does this bike fit in my small apartment?"
Have you ever seen a shirt that you loved in a clothing store but couldn't find your size? Or have you always wanted to test expensive makeup before you buy it? These are two business cases that might require AR mirrors, often referred to as "virtual" or "magic" mirrors.
AR mirror technology allows you to stand in front of a screen in selfie mode and see how products in the store's catalog look to you in the right size or shade.
After your virtual experience, you can use some virtual mirrors to order the product or send yourself a link so that you can order it later. This eliminates additional friction associated with waiting for the item to be back in stock.
You can also use this virtual process to view products that the store sells but may not sell in the store due to seasonality or space constraints.
This strategy is used by Charlotte Tilbury, a UK-based beauty retailer.
Virtual mirrors bought and installed by Holition line the walls of the boutique. When a customer examines you, the camera and software scan the dimensions and skin tone of their face. From there, the customer taps various makeup items on the screen to see how the products look on their face. Here is a short video demonstration of how the software works:
Social media filter
Have you ever started Instagram or Facebook stories and discovered new AR filters that allow you to test products right from your app? If not, you will definitely see more of this soon.
Facebook and Instagram are actively recognizing the low-hanging fruits of AR preview in e-commerce and are actively taking steps to enable more commerce that leverages this technology. For example, Facebook made AR filter ads available in Facebook Ads in late 2019. These ads allow users to test products in Facebook Stories and their news feed.
Here is an example of what one of these ads might look like:
Leveraging product-centric AR filters on social media brings the benefits of mobile AR previews without actually requiring customers to visit an e-commerce website.
When social media users pull up their friends' stories or content, they may notice a story with an AR product or discover and see an AR preview that they can experience. This type of experience is far more natural than seeing an influencer write about a dress or makeup, visit the ecommerce website, and then do additional research to see if it's the right shade.
While social AR previews are still in their early stages, platforms like Facebook are already identifying types of retailers who could be successful with these tools. For example, AR capabilities that allow users to preview products on social media could transform the world of fashion and beauty. In this industry, social media revenue from paid promotions rose 164% in 2018.
With social media users actively engaging in paid beauty ads, brands that can use AR on Facebook and Instagram can reach social media-friendly audiences and try new products on popular platforms.
One company that is already using AR to highlight products on social media is Dior, which allows users to try out looks from the fall / winter clothing line on their Instagram Stories camera.
As social media and mobile browsing continue to dominate the way Millennials and Gen Z spend their time, the need to invest in clever mobile advertising like AR ads will also increase. While the combination of AR tactics and social media is still new – and not worth breaking your budget just yet – you should keep following brands and competitors who leverage it if this technology becomes more accessible in the future.
What AR Success Means for Retailers
While the growth of AR shows how companies are leveraging new technologies to benefit the customer journey, the effectiveness of AR and other retail technologies shows that customers are increasingly looking for digital, personalized and seamless shopping experiences.
And that makes sense. More and more people are using mobile e-commerce stores and online social platforms to find, review and ultimately buy products.
Even if you have a physical business, you need to employ highly digital tactics to make sure you are getting better known from people online and from people in your neighborhood.
And while you shouldn't be investing all your money in AR, there are other tactics you can use to let your audience know about your product or service. This includes highlighting your products on social media, starting a small but scalable ecommerce store, or sending personalized emails from customers about products they may like based on what they have already purchased from your store to have.